essays on suffering and awakening

Dona nobis pacem

Last night five police officers were murdered while on duty. They were policing a rally held for people who had themselves been murdered.

This is insane.

I wish I could make it stop by myself but I can’t. What I do know is that we have a choice between love and fear. It’s so easy to look around, and see each other as something to be afraid of. That’s how so many of us lead our lives. We love a few, we tolerate a few more, and fear everyone else.

But that’s what leads to violence. To make peace, we’ve got to learn to see each other with love.

There’s a Buddhist practice called metta (loving-kindness) meditation. Other traditions would call it a type of prayer. It’s simple and can help.

You start out by sending love to yourself. You can think it, visualize it, whatever works. Repeat a phrase like I love myself or I am loving awareness. Just go with it.

Then you start sending love to the people you love. Your partner, your family, your friends, your dog — whoever you feel close to. I love you. You are loving awareness.

Then you widen the circle of love, sending it to your acquaintances and your coworkers. Send it to the guy ahead of you in traffic. Feel it spreading outward from your heart.

Here’s the hard part. Now you send the love to the people you don’t like, even the people you hate. It might feel wrong. Do it anyway. I love you. You are loving awareness.

You finish by sending love to the entire universe. Imagine it spreading out from your body, across the city, the state, the country, the planet, and beyond into the vastness of space. Fill everything with your love.

You might not feel anything when you do this. That’s okay. Do it anyway. Do it for kicks. Do it every day. Let it soak through you, down into your bones.

If you’re angry, if you think the people you hate don’t deserve love, you’re not alone. If you think the people who perpetrated these acts of violence, and a thousand thousand more like them don’t deserve love, well, you’re not alone. So many of us want the people who hurt us and scare us to suffer.

But the thing is, anyone who’s murdering other people is already suffering. They’re living in a hell of their own making. If you can’t send them love, send them the hope that they find peace.

That’s how we get people to stop hurting each other. We help each other find peace. We open our hearts, even when it’s hard.

Especially when it’s hard.

Ian Cooper